By Cassandra Balentine
Banners are big business in most print shops. Vinyl is often used, but more environmentally friendly alternatives are also available. Th ere are pros and cons to both options.
Vinyl banners provide durability and weather resistance, while eco-friendly alternatives provide a “green” option for those that request or require them. Depending on the specifi c application and what drives the print buyer, both types of materials are useful.
The Popular Vinyl
Vinyl is a popular banner material for a range of settings, including both indoor and outdoor environments. This traditional banner material provides durability and longevity at an affordable price point.
“I would say at least 90 percent of the current market share—if not more—consists of traditional vinyl banner material,” states Lily Hunter, product manager, textiles and consumables, Roland DGA Corporation. “I do see this changing over the next five years.
However, how quickly changes take placeis determined by a few things, including new environmental laws and regulations, the printability of non-PVC based banners, and the cost of non-PVC banners.”
Bryan Rose, VP/GM, new business development, Cooley Group, agrees that traditional vinyl makes up “well over 90 percent,” of the overall market share for banner volume. However, the use of PVC-free materials—including textiles— is growing and the trend is increasing.
Jack Smith, SVP, Hop Industries Corporation, says the popularity of vinyl is declining, but adds that it can hold up to harsh conditions that many other products cannot yet achieve, which is why it is still in use today.
Eric Tischer, president, Verseidag US, explains that traditional vinyl banner continues to hold a sizeable share of the total print market due to various segments requesting these substrates. “While these percentages may slightly diminish in the coming years, these materials should continue to be the mainstay unless new technologies replace them.”
“The U.S. market almost exclusively uses vinyl for banners,” states Gautier Peers, territory manager, Dickson Coatings. He adds that the European market uses a lot of fabrics.
Although non-vinyl alternatives encroach on the vinyl banner territory, the traditional material offers benefits such as cost, ease of use, performance, durability, and fabrication—including the ability to easily weld with a variety of techniques, comments Rose.
Banners are used for a range of display options, from standard hanging banners to pole banners, banner stands, and billboards. Vinyl serves all these needs, for both indoor and outdoor environments.
“There are major benefits to using traditional vinyl for banner applications,” states Hunter.
Josh Propp, senior technical and development manager, Value Vinyls, Inc., says the traditional banner market is driven by vinyl substrates due to durability, cost, and ease of use on multiple printing platforms.
Mark Friedman, director of marketing, Magic, Dietzgen Corporation, shares that the application possibilities are extensive and diverse. “That is one of the reasons for vinyl banner’s success and why it is so difficult to develop alternatives,” he offers.
Common applications include pole, fence, hanging pocket, and ceiling banners, as well as roll-up displays and banners that require grommets and rope.
Propp suggests that most vinyl is appropriate for indoor and outdoor signage, is easily mounted, and economical enough to use for a short period of time, yet durable enough for long-term applications.
Gary York, wide format specialist, Agfa Graphics, points to uses such as large outdoor advertising, in retail stores, and both indoor and outdoor home improvement/ garden centers.
“Vinyl banners—from pole banners to billboards to barrier banners—are primarily used in outdoor environments,” agrees Hunter. She says a small percentage are used for indoor applications, such as retail, trade shows, and pop-up banners.
While both indoor and outdoor needs are met with vinyl banner materials, outdoor applications are particularly more reliant on this type of media. Smith says this is due to its ability to withstand extreme weather conditions.
“PVC vinyl is ideal for long-term outdoor applications or tough climates because it’s the most weatherproof material,” adds Peers.
Tischer believes vinyl banner material is predominately utilized in outdoor applications due to the durability and longevity the product possesses. “This can be with outdoor banners, billboards, building wraps, stadium graphics, and fence mesh applications. The durable nature of these materials continues to cause them to be a mainstay. For interior we typically see vinyl utilized in hanging double-sided layflat blockout advertising pieces as well as a single-sided vinyl in roll up displays.”
Hunter explains there are different grades of banners available for short- or longterm applications. “In addition to cost and durability advantages, PVC vinyl tends to be easier to print on and color profile than polyethylene (PE) banners.”
Propp suggests looking beyond first-use opportunities when it comes to vinyl banner materials. He points out that PVC vinyl is “extremely durable, cost effective, and lasts for a very long time,” noting that many secondary companies have repurposed material by utilizing out-of-service banners to build a range of products, such as shoes, backpacks, bags, surfboard carrying cases, tarps, and temporary shelters for emergency use.
The Non-Vinyl Threat
For those looking to distance themselves from PVC-vinyl banner materials, plenty of options are available. However, many argue whether or not they pose an immediate threat to the traditional PVC-based vinyl business.
Rose says eco-friendly and PVC-free banner materials do threaten the traditional vinyl market. “They offer similar properties as vinyl—and typically in a much lighter, more environmentally friendly construction—and many are cost competitive with vinyl, making them viable alternatives.”
“Traditional banner vinyl holds about 80 percent market share, and in the next five years it will go down 60 percent,” predicts Smith. “All indicators are showing this decrease because banner vinyl cannot be recycled and is not environmentally friendly.”
Propp suggests that eco-friendly and PVC-free materials are a growing trend in Europe with the use of polypropylene and PE substrates, but it is still new. “PE has been available in the U.S. for some time, but with heavy limitation in that it is only compatible with UV ink delivery systems and the shelf life is so brief that it works well only with large volume print providers,” he states.
Hunter doesn’t see eco-friendly/PVC-free materials posing a threat to the traditional vinyl market. “Producing a printed banner is typically a low-cost job,” she says. “The more environmentally friendly materials have higher price tags, so customers are more likely to opt for the less expensive vinyl.”
Friedman agrees, “eco-friendly, PVC-free materials will never overtake the traditional vinyl market. Vinyl is just too easy, too inexpensive, and it just works.”
“I have no doubt that eco-friendly/PVCfree materials will become a larger share of the market in the future. However, I don’t believe it will overtake vinyl banners due to cost and overall outdoor durability,” states York.
Tischer also believes that while alternative options cut into the vinyl banner market, they will not replace it completely. “Many markets and clients are definitely looking for more earth-friendly print solutions, but matching the durability that comes from PVC-based vinyl is difficult.”
Alternative Media Options and Benefits
As PVC-free media options emerge, they are best used in specific situations and provide certain benefits.
Smith suggest non-vinyl options be used in less extreme environmental situations, “where its environmental and cost benefits would make it a popular alternative.”
Traditional vinyl becomes concerning when it comes to short-term applications because of its poor environmental record. “More people are aware of the health risks caused by PVC, and are requesting PVC-free materials for indoor applications. This trend is already happening for wallcoverings, and I believe it will happen for banners,” says Peers.
Non-vinyl options present benefits such as environmental friendliness, recyclability, and typically lighter weights—allowing for more material per roll.
Vinyl alternatives may also be 100 percent recyclable and contain few to no chemicals. Smith recommends recycled materials be used to produce new products for a variety of applications such as flower pots, park benches, and landscaping trim for decorating gardens, which are made out of polypropylene.
Hunter suggests non-vinyl banner materials are most commonly used for pop-up banners and hanging signs. She says the primary benefit of non-vinyl banner material is the green aspect. “Most of these materials are recyclable and environmentally friendly. The downside is the cost.”
“Typically, non-vinyl banner materials are used when a higher quality or smoother finish is needed,” shares York.
Non-vinyl banners offer eco-friendliness, due to the lack of PVC, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds. Tischer adds that many also offer an improved hand, a more natural look, and stretch and opacity characteristics that vinyl counterparts don’t have.
Cost Comparison Media selection often comes down to cost. While PVC banner is known to be a cost-effective solution, it does not always mean it is the only affordable option.
Depending on the source, quality, and type of material, costs vary for the average roll of vinyl banner materials versus non-vinyl alternatives. “Products made in the U.S. are higher quality and typically more expensive than products produced in Asia—both PVC and PVC-free. The difference can be as much as 30 percent higher.
PE-based, PVC-free material is usually close to PVC pricing with up to a 15 percent premium on a square foot basis, depending on whether or not it is UV or latex printable,” comments Rose.
Hunter says that generally, scrim banner is about $0.20 per square foot or less. She estimates non-PVC banners to be around $0.55 per square foot or more.
A typical street price for 13 oz. scrim banner, according to York, could range from $0.12 to $0.16 per square foot, depending on the width of the material. “150- to 196-inch wide costs more than narrower widths,” he points out, adding that in comparison, a similar non-vinyl banner for outdoor use would be $0.35 up to $1.00 per square foot.
Many vendors offer media options for banner products, both vinyl and nonvinyl. Below is a selection of new and/ or popular products as offered by those quoted in this article.
Agfa recently launched two new banner products, including the Duratex Black Back Mesh and Backlight Banner. Duratex Black Mesh allows for a one-way vision effect similar to window perforation. It retails for $0.26 per square foot and comes in 98-, 126-, and 196-inch by 164-foot rolls. Blacklight Banner is a 15 oz. product available in matte and gloss. It is sold in 63-, 98-, 126-, and 196-inch by 164 foot rolls. Retail price is between $0.33 and $0.37 per square foot. The media is typically used for large outdoor backlight scenes for production stage, stadium graphics, or oversized indoor backlights. It is available in matte and gloss.
Cooley Group offers Enviroflex PVC Frontlit 7 oz. It is lightweight and durable. The product is available in widths of up to five meters, seamless. It prints well with solvent, UV, and latex ink and offers ten years for proven performance, according to the company. It is made in the U.S. and is HP Latex Certified. The company also provides its Coolflex PVC Frontlit 13 oz. double-sided blockout frontlit product, which is smooth on both sides and features 100 percent blockout properties for two-sided banners. It prints well on solvent, UV, and latex inks and is also HP Latex Certified.
Dietzgen offers Magic RENEW, which is a lightweight, durable, non-woven PET banner replacement for traditional vinyl banner. It is compatible with latex, solvent, and UV-curable printers, can be grommeted, welded, and hung or installed in the same fashion as a traditional vinyl banner.
Dickson Coatings provides its Jet 550, a 17 oz. frontlit product that is knife coated. The polyester fabric is encapsulated in the PVC. A liquid vinyl consisting of two PVC films is glued onto a polyester base cloth with the use of heat and pressure.
Hop Industries’ most popular banner vinyl alternative is Hop-Syn XT. The synthetic paper is easily die cut and can also be grommeted and printed on both sides. It’s a single-layered mineral-filled polypropylene, which is produced using a calender manufacturing process. This finishing process creates a smooth white matte surface. The XT grade is UV resistant up to one year outdoor, and resistant to scuffs, weather, and tearing.
Roland offers two types of vinyl banner material, Light-Weight Banner Vinyl, its ESM-LBV2 product; and RolyPoly Banner Film, ESM-RPBF. Roland Light-Weight Banner vinyl is a coated, premium-quality banner product that’s ideal for both short- and long-term signage. It’s anti-curling and features a luster finish for an elevated graphic result. Ideal for hanging and fitting with pole pockets and grommets, it can be cut to edge, welded, or hemmed and sewn. Roland RolyPoly Banner Film is a premium quality, 10-mil polyester film with a white back that is well suited for a variety of applications, including both indoor and outdoor. It will not curl or tear, making it ideal for roll-up banners.
Value Vinyls offers its Rio Extra 13 oz. and Rio Opaque 18 oz. material. According to the company, the product’s popularity is due to price points and versatility.
Verseidag provides a variety of vinyl products including seemee IV, 16 and 19 oz. PVC-coated vinyl for backlit signage. It is available in up to 196-inch widths and is a seven-year warranted product. Its seemee Frontlit Ultra Matte is a 13 oz., PVC-coated vinyl available in up to 196-inch widths. seemee Mesh Supreme is a 10 oz. PVC-coated mesh with “cat’s eye” hole, available in up to 196-inch widths. seemee Mesh Solution, a 9 oz., PVC-coated mesh, is available in up to 196-inch widths. seemee Backlit Supreme is a 21 oz., PVC-coated vinyl blockout, double-sided printable product, available in up to 196-inch widths. V Flex 13 oz. Banner is available in white/white or white/black and is available in widths up to 196 inches. T Flex 14 oz. Blockout is a double-sided smooth blockout, available in 126-inch widths
Banners are a tried-and-true application. In many cases traditional PVC-based vinyl is still utilized to serve this market. However, as alternative options continue to emerge; print buyers and providers have a more comprehensive media selection to serve the job at hand.
Feb2017, Digital Output